I don’t know why you’d hold a rally during the week – unless your target demographic was those who haven’t worked for years – but the “We will never accept the legitimacy of a non-Liberal government” crowd’s effort in Canberra yesterday was hardly a great success – for them or the politicians they meant to support but actually damaged.

Notwithstanding their silly timing, I was surprised that for this “people’s revolt” where they had some of the biggest mouthpieces in the largest capitals riling up their listeners, and buses available to bring them all to Canberra, they could manage barely a third (if that) of the attendees GetUp! managed to organise to oppose them in a few days before the last occasion. Sure, they deride those Australians as “rent-a-crowd” (although I don’t believe GetUp even provided buses for them, let alone paid them) – but if you’re going to pretend to be a “people’s revolt”, you kind of want the pictures to at least demonstrate a reasonable number of actual people there.

The Coalition’s apologists are in full spin mode this morning trying to explain away the more offensive signs with “there are always crazies, it’s no reflection on the movement in general”, a fascinating contrast to how they report left-wing rallies, in which the most damning photographs are precisely how they choose to represent their opponents. (And some of the less self-aware columnists have actually highlighted this hypocrisy by going and digging out some of the “fringe leftists” they’d previously used to smear their opponents – this is an illegitimate technique, they said, but while we’re here let’s rely on this illegitimate technique as we have done many times in the past.)

Will this be the end of the protest campaign? Will the conservative forces return to what they’re good at: spending huge amounts of money on advertising campaigns where good-looking actors saying precisely the most persuasive focus-group-tested things pretend to represent “the people”?

I suspect that would be their best next move. Perhaps leave the rallies to causes that actually have popular support.